Oral Histories

Bill Margaritis

Interview Segments on Topic: PR Education/Training

Bill Margaritis Biography

Bill Margaritis is the executive VP of corporpate affairs at Hilton Worldwide. Previously, he was corporate vice president for global communications and investor relations for FedEx Corporation.

Transcript

INTERVIEWER: We’ve covered a lot of ground. Is there anything that you want to talk about or add that we haven’t covered in terms of thinking about ethics and integrity in corporate communication?

MARGARITIS: One area that I worry about a little bit for our profession is whether we have a strong enough training and education curriculum through the school systems. Because, of all the profound changes we’ve talked about in the profession, it’s really important that the academic programs, in either undergraduate or graduate school systems are commensurate with what companies or agencies or nonprofits are looking for in their communications executives. Many professions like IT and the medical community and the legal community have done a fantastic job of building seed programs in the school system in order to better prepare them when they come into the ‘real world,’ so to speak. I think we have gaps. We have an opportunity to close those gaps by forging a stronger partnership between the corporate practitioners and organizations like Arthur Page (Society) and the (Arthur W.) Page Center, and our academic institutions. Because we have a lot of very smart people who are professors in a lot of great universities and they want to do the right thing. They understand. But it’s going to take, I think, a lot of work to build a stronger foundation. The worst thing we can do is to have people come in who are interested and all of a sudden not succeed or have a huge gap between what we expect and what they’re capable of doing. That causes a lot of issues. So that’s the one area that I think about our industry that needs some attention going forward.

INTERVIEWER: Is there anything in particular when you think about the way students are being prepared now to go into the profession that perhaps educators need to pay more attention to?

MARGARITIS: The traditional communications curriculum in schools is built around writing, understanding the media, how to get your message out, how people consume information. It’s important, basic stuff. But if the world has moved so far beyond those basic requirements, those are just tickets into the party, if you will. Now you have to have strong business acumen. You need good project management skills, you need diplomacy and negotiation and persuasive skills and how to build consensus. Because nothing’s ever very clear and dry and linear. It’s almost like in our world we have to deal with multilateral negotiations. And understanding technology and understanding, even psychology and leadership and team building and culture are all important. All these are really areas that I don’t know if we pay enough attention to them in the so-called traditional PR curriculum. But they certainly are very important if you take a day in the life of one of us, working for a big company or an agency.

INTERVIEWER: That’s a tall order for those of us in the academy.

MARGARITIS: Yes, but it’s a great opportunity. You can’t succeed by sitting still. The only constant in life is change. If you don’t change, you perish so, we have to change. It’s not an option.

INTERVIEWER: All right, anything else that you want to add?

MARGARITIS: No, it’s just great having you here; really appreciate it.

INTERVIEWER: Thanks, it’s been a terrific interview, thank you.